Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) was developed in the early 1980’s by Susan Johnson and Lesie Greenberg as a model of therapy that addresses the manner in which emotion impacts and organizes intimate partners’ interactions (Johnson, 2004).
It is considered
a brief therapy, usually consisting of between 8 and 20 sessions. Research suggests that working with and utilizing emotions in counselling is powerful in effecting change.
Emotion underlies motivation, orienting us to action.
It is generally what brings people together to form intimate relationships.
It also provides salient information about the state of our relationships and how others impact us.
It is an influencing force motivating the way we respond to others.
Expressed emotion communicates to others and impacts the way they respond to us.
EFT enables partners to explore emotional experience to discover needs and desires within their relationship, and communicate these more effectively.
As relational needs surface and are expressed partners are given opportunity to contribute to meeting these needs and deepen the intimacy in their relationship. As partners explore new ways of responding to one another, become increasingly available to each other and begin to express with increasing clarity their emotional realities, the relationship grows. EFT draws upon attachment theory to help couples develop security in their relationship, strengthening their ability to cope with the unexpected and potentially painful events of life (Johnson, 2002).
EFT has been enlisted in helping couples more effectively cope with the devastating effects of trauma.
Johnson (2002) states that, “…couple therapy has a vital role to play in addressing the interpersonal effects of trauma and helping partners to turn their relationship into a safe haven, a haven that actively promotes facing the dragon well and healing from the aftereffects of his fire” (p. 5). For trauma survivors, EFT can transform their intimate relationship from one that is the source of stress and fear to one that is safe, supportive, and healing.
Couple therapy has also been used to treat individual issues such as stress, anxiety and depression.
Close and supportive relationships have been linked to health benefits such as immune system resilience, stress reduction, and the ability to cope with stressors (Johnson, 2002). Conversely, distressed relationships are associated with depression, Post Traumatic Stress, and other emotional issues.
The efficacy of Emotion Focused Therapy with couples has been well researched.
The data indicates that this model yields a high rate of recovery for distressed couples with a low rate of relapse when compared with behavioural interventions.
This model is approved by the American Psychological Association as an empirically validated intervention for couples. Amoung the wide variety of couple types for which EFT is effective are included:
Parents of chronically ill children o
Partners from different cultures and socioeconomic groups o
Older couples o
Couples suffering from chronic illness o
Couples in which at least one partner is coping with depression and anxiety (including PTSD).